Movies in 2012: Superheroes gone wild
Published: Sunday, January 01, 2012, 8:00 AM
By Stephen Whitty/The Star-Ledger
Happy New Year.
Or is it?
Well, for diehard fantasy fans, comic-book buffs and science-fiction enthusiasts, 2012 promises 12 months of pure pleasure.
For other moviegoers, it could be a bit more problematic.
There’s still some sorting out to do – like finding definite dates (and names) for “Untitled David Chase Project” and “Untitled Osama bin Laden Project.” And other interesting movies are sure to be added. But so far, the big-deal dramas seem to be hiding.
Still there are already some unusual trends.
Like several adult-child/impossible-parent stories, done as comedies and dramas. A few fairy tales turned into action pictures. Way too many Channing Tatum movies. And old hits, rereleased with new 3-D, to get you to pay up a second time.
Still, forewarned is forearmed – so here’s what lies ahead
The first month of the year always plays like the last month of the old one, as films that had only one-week, Oscar-qualifying runs (“Rampart,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Coriolanus”) get real openings, and others go into wider release. A moviegoer could have a satisfying month just catching up.
Interested in new pleasures? “Red Tails” tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, with the terrific Terrence Howard.
Director Steven Soderbergh does a stripped-down spy tale in “Haywire,” and “One for the Money” stars Katherine Heigl as Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. And here comes “Beauty and the Beast” again – this time, yes, with those funny glasses and an extra dimension.
Typically one of the worst months of the year, as an Oscar-distracted Hollywood starts randomly throwing things into theaters.
How random? How about that least-loved “Star Wars” episode, “The Phantom Menace,” now in 3-D? (Great – even more Jar Jar.) Or a “Ghost Rider” sequel. Or something called “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds.” (If he really wants to do a good deed, he could start by leaving his name out of his titles.)
In any case, it’s probably best just to focus on offerings like “The Woman in Black,” with Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter film as a haunted lawyer. And “This Is Not a Film,” a genuinely heroic act from banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi.
A month often aimed at vacationing students of all ages.
So for the youngest, there’s “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” a CGI ”˜toon that could recapture the charm of the same studio’s “Horton Hears a Who.” For older fantasy fans, there’s the teens-vs.-teens adventure “The Hunger Games,” and “John Carter,” which finally brings Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian adventures to the screen.
Adult drama lovers, meanwhile, can look forward to “Being Flynn,” with Robert De Niro as a scarily awful parent, and “The Raven” with John Cusack as a mystery-solving Edgar Allen Poe.
Both are probably better bets than Gerard Butler as a soccer-mom-chasing lothario in “Playing the Field,” Jonah Hill in “21 Jump Street” and Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen in “Snow White.”
Traditionally, another rotten month, as studios try to clear their shelves before the summer.
So now we get an “American Pie” sequel, “American Reunion.” And a fifth “Scary Movie” farce. And some very peculiar casting. I mean, Sean Hayes as Larry in “The Three Stooges”? Zac Efron as a haunted war vet in “The Lucky One”? Shia LaBeouf in a bootlegging comedy called “Wettest County”?
More interesting choices include “Seeking a Friend at the End of the World,” an offbeat apocalyptic romance with Steve Carell. And I’m looking forward to Sylvester Stallone’s “A Bullet in the Head” and a rereleased “Titanic” – only because action auteur Walter Hill is directing the first one, and perfectionist James Cameron will get the 3-D in the second absolutely right.
Summer’s here, at least at the box office, and if you have any doubt, just look at this four-week lineup:
Week One: “Marvel’s The Avengers,” with Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and other superheroes finally teaming up for their own all-star movie.
Week Two: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp joining for a revamp of TV’s “Dark Shadows,” campy fave of Baby Boomer monster fans.
Week Three: “Battleship,” the ballyhooed – and definitely peculiar – reworking of the rainy-day game as a Navy-vs.-aliens epic.
Week Four: “Men in Black 3,” with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones back for a time-travel tale that sends Smith into the ’60s.
Not a fanboy of any kind? Check out “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” with the famous guide now turned into a Cameron Diaz comedy, or “The Dictator” with the non-PC Sacha Baron Cohen as a farcical tyrant.
And no true movie fan will want to miss “Moonrise Kingdom,” which reteams singular director Wes Anderson with longtime collaborator Bill Murray – and adds Tilda Swinton to make it even more interesting.
Another crowded month, with some face-offs. Into the new fairy-tale-as-action-movie fad? Then contrast-and-compare “Snow White and the Huntsman” to “Jack the Giant Killer.” Need a cartoon for the kiddies? Take your pick ”“ with “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” landing the zoo critters in a circus, and “Brave,” set in auld Scotland.
There are some one-of-a-kind attractions, too. Like “Rock of Ages,” the mullet-and-power-ballad Broadway hit, now with Tom Cruise. Or the twisted, if self-explanatory, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” And sure to be astounding is Ridley Scott’s sci-fi “Prometheus,” with Charlize Theron, a story from one of the “Lost” scribes and, it’s rumored, just a hint of “Alien.”
So, yeah, there’s a Ben Stiller comedy (“Neighborhood Watch”) another self-promoting Tyler Perry movie (“Tyler Perry’s The Matchmaker”) and further who-asked-for-”˜em sequels to “Ice Age” and “Step Up.” Oh, and “Ted,” a twisted comedy with Mark Wahlberg and a talking teddy bear that sounds like “The Beaver,” only less so.
But basically this month divides into two.
The first half is ruled by “The Amazing Spider-Man” which tries to erase bad memories of the last sequel by starting things all over with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and 3-D.
And making the most of two-dimensions two weeks later is the enormously anticipated “The Dark Knight Rises,” which promises an IMAX-sized conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s terrific trilogy.
A strange sort of early Halloween, as at least five movies – “Warm Bodies,” “The Apparition,” “Sinister,” “7500″ and “The Possession” – bring on a heroic zombie, a spooky flight, a curse and a couple of hauntings. All that’s missing is the jack-o-lantern.
And the rest of the month follows their move toward genre, with new spy Jeremy Renner coming into “The Bourne Legacy,” and the Jennifer Garner rom-com fantasy, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.”
Worst dumb idea? Could be remaking “Total Recall,” minus Arnold Schwarzenegger. Best dumb idea? Might be another gleefully stupid “The Expendables” with Schwarzenegger – and Stallone, plus old Chuck Norris himself.
Another, perpetually awful movie month, padded out with sequels nobody asked for (yet another “Resident Evil” splatterfest), rereleased hits (“Finding Nemo,” in 3-D of course) and second-tier comic-book heroes (“Dredd,” which at least can’t be worse than the first, catastrophic “Judge Dredd”).
Two glimmers of hope remain, however.
One is “Argo,” a true-life thriller set during the Iranian hostage crisis, directed by star Ben Affleck – who, so far, is two-for-two in his filmmaking career. And the second is “Savages,” a drug-cartel movie from Oliver Stone, who returns to bloody screen violence – and reunites John Travolta and Uma Thurman.
Is 3-D really enough of a reason to reboot “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Halloween”? Again? Apparently, although neither promises anything truly new – just like yet another Robert De Niro comedy about a bickering family (“The Big Wedding”), and one more Liam Neeson-gets-ticked-off thriller (“Taken 2″)
What does sound like it has potential, however, is Tim Burton’s feature-length expansion of his early monster cartoon “Frankenweenie.” And “The Gangster Squad” promises plenty of retro thrills, with Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling as L.A. lawmen and Sean Penn at his most feral as the corrupt and corrupting Mickey Cohen.
What did we do to deserve this? Don’t know, but this month features two meddlesome ladies cracking wise – Barbra Streisand, as an impossible momma in “My Mother’s Curse,” and Bette Midler as a pushy grandma in “Parental Guidance.” Eeyore himself couldn’t do such braying.
There are a couple of less predictable options, too – like the outer-space drama “Gravity,” with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock on a troubled mission, or “47 Ronin,” a samurai epic with Keanu Reeves.
But the month really comes down to two very different blockbusters – “Skyfall,” with the return (at last) of James Bond, and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part II” with Edward and Bella facing their most dangerous challenge yet. Besides parenthood, that is.
At this stage, only the biggest films have claimed one of these coveted, pre-Oscar dates. But so far, there’s something for almost everyone.
Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby.”
Among the holiday presents for fans? A brand-new Quentin Tarantino (an all-star, spaghetti-Western mashup, “Django Unchained”) and a new-but-still-familiar Peter Jackson (the Middle Earth adventure, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”).
Plus Judd Apatow checks in on the Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann unhappily marrieds from “Knocked Up” in “This is 40.” And Ang Lee presents himself with a new challenge with “The Life of Pi,” the story of a boy, a lifeboat – and a Bengal tiger.
That one’s in 3-D – as is “The Great Gatsby,” oddly enough, with the often-frenetic Baz Luhrmann directing Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic. And epic in every way should be Steven Spielberg’s long-in-development “Lincoln,” with Daniel Day-Lewis fighting his wife, his Cabinet and the Confederacy.
But not vampires. That’s another movie.